The entire country music community mourned when Little Jimmy Dickens passed away on Jan. 2. But aside from Dickens' family, perhaps no one felt the loss as strongly as Brad Paisley, who says the 94-year-old reminded him of his own grandfather, who died when Paisley was just a child.

“I remember as a kid having a sense that [my grandfather] wouldn't be around that long," Paisley tells CMT. "He ate fried chicken and smoked cigarettes, and he was one of those guys who just looked like a grandpa every day: He was bald, and he wore glasses and slacks and Velcro tennis shoes. So when I got to Nashville and befriended Jimmy, I had that same feeling, that there was no way he had more than a decade left."

However, Dickens surpassed everyone's expectations and lived through several health scares, inspiring the 'Crushin' It' singer in the process. Paisley, who sang at the public memorial for the Opry legend, also attended the private service for close family and friends.

“Our preacher Mike Glenn said, ‘All of you here today should be thinking about your own funeral,'" Paisley recounts. "'Because if you live your life like you’re planning that show, your last show, then that’s a pretty good way to live.'"

Paisley was invited by Dickens, along with Jeannie Seely and Bill Anderson, to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2000, and he learned plenty from the elder generation of country music stars.

"I’m always conscious about having one foot on the Opry stage,” Paisley says, “no matter where the other foot happens to be.”

The 42-year-old says his life will forever be touched by the country music legend.

"Much will be said and written about his incredible and unique place in Country Music history," Paisley wrote in a touching tribute shortly after Dickens' death. "Which could fill a book. But that isn't how I’ll remember him. I will remember the human being that best check-marked all the boxes of a complete and wonderful life. My hero."

Little Jimmy Dickens Through the Years

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